TGP G1 Climax 07.29.17: Last Ride of a Legend, Part II

By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor


Welcome to The Gorilla Position’s coverage of this year’s New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax tournament and thank you for joining us. Some disclaimers to get out of the way:

One, if you’re here for play-by-play, star ratings, or discussions about booking or finishes, you’re in the wrong house. What we discuss herein is the nuts and bolts of the tournament in so far as track records, career trajectories, and what it means for those involved. Second, this is a live event, not Game of Thrones. There are spoilers here insofar as results. We’re discussing results and what they mean as well, so if you haven’t watched it on NJPW World yet and want to come back afterward, we’re okay with that.

After a day of rest, the tournament continues with Block A seeing action today in Aichi. The standings are a little clearer as three men currently stand tall over the rest of the block. One, however, could see his final G1 end in disaster as Yuji Nagata is perilously close to becoming the first elimination from the tournament.

G1_07.29.17

The history of Yuji Nagata in New Japan Pro Wrestling has been previously discussed, but has not served him well during his final G1 tournament. Nagata has yet to score a win during this run, which at this juncture is dangerous territory. Should Nagata lose, he will not be able to score enough points to contend for the block finals – which, mathematically, will eliminate him from G1 contention in his final year. The odds are stacked against him, both numerically and in terms of his next test, “The Unchained Gorilla” Togi Makabe.

Nagata goes for all the impact he can, hitting the powerful Makabe with big moves such as the exploder suplex. However, the desperation means Nagata is playing to Makabe’s strengths as Makabe unloads his power in return. Nagata lures Makabe into brawling to be able to catch him with the Fujiwara armbar and Nagata pours it on, looking to knock Makabe down and out. Makebe is a tough man to keep down, and Nagata learns this the hard way. Despite all of Nagata’s efforts, he falls to Makabe’s King Kong Kneedrop and is on the losing end as Makabe pins Nagata for 2 points. Yuji Nagata, the former “Ace” of New Japan, now stands with zero points and zero hope of going all the way in his final G1 Climax tournament.

Kota Ibushi and Bad Luck Fale are both coming off of losses from the prior A Block show. Ibushi was overpowered by Togi Makabe, while Fale was outmaneuvered by a smaller opponent in Zack Sabre, Jr. The two find themselves in similar positions against each other here. Fale seems to have learned from the last encounter as he not only looks to overpower Ibushi, but also take away one of his primary weapons: the leg. Ibushi comes out of the loss to Makabe with an increased will to do whatever it takes to move forward, including a moonsault to Fale off of a balcony!

Ibushi clearly isn’t afraid to use the bad leg to mount offense, whether it’s aerial or using it to try and knock out a weakened Fale. His mistake comes when adrenaline gets the better of him and he tries his Last Ride powerbomb on the much larger Fale. Fale is able to use his size and strength to capitalize on the error, pinning Ibushi for 2 points with the Bad Luck Fall. Ibushi is left near the bottom, while Fale now sits within striking distance of the top of the leaderboard.

One of the surprises atop that leaderboard is Zack Sabre, Jr. who’s only lost one match thus far by confounding competitors with a completely different style (and the occasional help of his Suzuki-Gun stablemates). Hirooki Goto is game to play Sabre’s game at the outset but is soon distracted by Desperado and falls victim to Sabre’s contortions as Sabre goes after Goto’s leg. Sabre uses his long limbs to strike at Goto, playing into his wheelhouse – a mistake Goto takes advantage of as he mounts a comeback. Sabre withstands Goto’s suplexes and is able to return to tying Goto up again. After manipulating Goto’s appendages fails to keep him down, Sabre is forced to return to the striking game, unwittingly playing into Goto’s hands. Goto slowly but surely pounds Sabre into position for the Backdrop Driver, scoring 2 more points after a pin.

In terms of points, IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi (6 points) looks to be a favorite against YOSHI-HASHI (2 points). In terms of performance, however, the match looks to be a little more even as HASHI has made great strides in raising his stock. The battle is even at the start until Tanahashi is able to fly, crashing into HASHI from the inside of the ring to the outside. Tanahashi begins targeting HASHI’s leg (in what’s becoming a pattern for this show). HASHI is able to make his way back to a vertical base and start wearing Tanahashi down, but the “Ace” works his way back to further damaging HASHI’s leg, going for the submission. Tanahashi’s intelligence shows in his game plan – concentrate on the opponent’s limb to take the concentration away from his own injured limb. HASHI, be it out of desperation or honor, stays away from Tanahashi’s injured arm and focuses on using agility and impact to pick away at the Intercontinental Champion. Both strategies devolve as they go toe-to-toe, but Tanahashi uses this as a ruse to go back to the leg. HASHI is still able to deliver a high-impact assault, but cannot beat Tanahashi at his own game. Tanahashi is able to rally and hit the High Fly Flow, pinning HASHI for another 2 points.

Tetsuya Naito, the leader of Los Ingobernobles de Japon, is the third man currently tied for first. Tomohiro Ishii nips at the heels with 4 points to his name. The contest of power versus agility – with Ishii’s toughness factored in – could mean a long night for Naito. Amazingly enough, the two perennial G1 competitors have never met in the tournament until now. Naito looks to avoid Ishii altogether on the outside, but Ishii catches him on the apron then takes the fight to Naito in no man’s land. Naito withstands the running of the bull and, once back inside, keeps Ishii off his get to chip away at the “Stone Pitbull.” Ishii keeps getting up, so Naito pivots and attacks the neck of Ishii.

Naito smartly intensifies his efforts, knowing Ishii will not be easy to put away. Ishii proves him correct and begins to mow Naito down en route to the brainbuster. Naito is resilient in his own right and circles back to Ishii’s neck. Ishii is in a great deal of pain as Naito spends nearly the entire match hitting Ishii’s neck from all sides to set up the Destino. Ishii, however, keeps shrugging Naito off as best he can and plowing through him with lariats and suplexes. Both men look for their finishers down the stretch, exhausted from the battle. Ishii, bleeding from the mouth, is finally able to overcome Naito’s speed and score the Brainbuster, pinning Naito for 2 points. Ishii’s toughness allows him to tie Naito and move into contention in Block A along with four others. However, Block A now has a clear leader in IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, holding 8 points – much like IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in Block B.

The tournament returns tomorrow in Gifu where Okada fittingly, stands atop the field. Other competitors – one a surprise at this stage – look to stand with him.

Current standings

Block A

Block B

Bad Luck Fale

  6  Michael Elgin   4  

Hirooki Goto

6 EVIL

6

Tetsuya Naito

6 Satoshi Kojima

0

Zack Sabre Jr.

6 Kazuchika Okada

8

YOSHI-HASHI

2 Kenny Omega

6

Kota Ibushi

2 Juice Robinson

2

Tomohiro Ishii

6 Sanada

4

Togi Makabe

6 Minoru Suzuki

4

Yuji Nagata

0 Tama Tonga

4

Hiroshi Tanahashi 8 Toru Yano

2

Advertisements